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Prisoner of Al Hakim

by Bradley Steffens

The novel is tells the story of Ibn Haytham,a great scholar who lived in 10th century, whose scientific discoveries laid the foundation of optics in modern physics.

: Feb 15, 2017 • 248 Pages • 6 x9 inches • ISBN 9781682060162
: Featured Books, Fiction, History, New Releases, Staff Picks,
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It was the Islamic Golden Age. Across the Middle East and North Africa, mosques and libraries hummed with scholarly activity. But in a small house near the center of Basra, one man, Alhasan Ibn al-Haytham, was troubled by what he read. The ancient Greeks were brilliant abstract thinkers, but their theories remained disconnected from the natural world. Just as Alhasan was setting out on his quest to unite theoretical models with physical reality, he was summoned to Egypt by Caliph Al-Hakim Bi-amr Allah, the sixth ruler of the Fatimid dynasty, to survey the Nile and devise a plan for taming it. He resisted going, but discovered at the end of a dagger he had no choice. Along the way, he was attacked by bandits, laid low by illness, accused of heresy, stripped of his books and papers, and imprisoned. Would he ever find a way to resume his studies? The only person who visited him was Sadeem bint Mourad, the young woman who delivered his meals. Could she help? Would she? He had to take a chance and ask. Little did he know her answer would change his life—and science—forever.
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The reader is transported one thousand years into medieval Arabia

Ibn al-Haytham, one of the greatest scholars in history, whose real life was one of the most colourful and fascinating ever told by historians, has been brought to life in a work of fiction utterly brilliantly by Steffens. The reader is transported one thousand years into medieval Arabia. This is a gripping story based on real-life events that is fizzing with adventure and rich in accurate historical and scientific nuggets.

Jim Al-Khalili, British theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster


Book Review by Blue Minaret: The Prisoner of al-Hakim

If you’re into physics you may know the name of the 10th century mathematician, philosopher and scientist Ibn al-Haytham, most commonly known as the father of optics. If you’re more into fiction and do not wish to read nonfiction texts about ancient scientists, then take heart. The story of Ibn al-Haytham has now been fictionalized masterfully by Bradley Steffens in the new book The Prisoner of al-Hakim.

The novel is engaging and an easy read. It is recommended that one have some knowledge of the eventful life of Ibn al-Haytham in order to fully appreciate the fictionalized plot, but that is not required. It stands on its own in terms of exciting storyline, interesting dialogue and well-written prose. Even readers who have never heard of Ibn al-Haytham before will be pulled into the action of the story and perhaps even develop an interest in the scientist’s real achievements.

The story begins with the kidnapping of Ibn al-Haytham by a man sent by the Caliph of Cairo, al-Hakim. From Basra the caravan of kidnaper and victim travels to Egypt where Ibn al-Haytham is tasked with the impossible: damming the river Nile. Each character is well-crafted and in-depth. Each chapter includes action-packed adventure. Ghosts, superstition, murderous robbers all mingle to form a delightful mix. At the same time, fans of history will appreciate the descriptions of Cairo and Basra, the esteemed House of Wisdom, even the deserts forming the backdrop of the book. There are plenty of women with strong, independent spirits, and many men in whose hearts burns the love of both God and science. And expectedly, Ibn al-Haytham’s final and his most momentous discovery takes center stage in this novel.

Award-winning author Bradley Steffens is well-suited to writing a historical novel. He has already authored more than 30 nonfiction books for children and young adults, including Ibn al-Haytham, First Scientist. The Prisoner of al-Hakim is his first work of fiction and is available on Amazon here.

Blue Minaret: A Literary Journal Chronicling the Muslim Experience,


Take Up the Pen, Not the Sword by Justin Pahl

From the very first page Steffens brilliantly brings Alhasan’s internal character to life on the page, sketching a conflicted,fascinating portrait of a reluctant hero.

The Fountain Magazine, on Life, Knowledge and Belief,

to read the whole review / interview: The Fountain


Amazon Customer Reviews

- From Chapter One I became a prisoner of the story ...

- ... this with tear-stained eyes to say how much I loved this book
- The Prisoner of Al-Hakim was a wonderful journey of a man's self discovery
- Historic and Timely "Read" - You'll not be able to put it down...fabulously researched and delivered!
- ...a wonderful job of surrounding historical facts with an interesting story
- This is a great read! It is not only a great historical read, but a lovely romance too! A wonderful novel!
The Prisoner of Al-Hakim has surprised me. The story is so engaging that I kept turning the pages, the scenes playing out in my mind as a movie.
An Amazing Journey From Start to Finish
Entertaining, Imaginative, Well-Crafted

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Bradley Steffens
Bradley Steffens

Bradley Steffens is an award-winning poet, playwright, and author of more than 30 nonfiction books for children and young adults. He is a two-time winner of the San Diego Book Award for Best Children’s and Young Adult Nonfiction: His Giants won the 2005 award, and his J.K. Rowling garnered the 2007 prize. He also received the 2007 Theodor S. Geisel Award for best book by a San Diego County author that year. This is his first novel.